Kinabalu – Konquered!

Last week, I managed to escape the hustle and bustle of the city to head to Sabah, Malaysia, for a quick five day adventure trip. I never did get a chance to experience hardcore adventure when I was younger, although I was in the canoeing team. This trip was eventful for me, because not only did I go with five other people whom I didn’t even know, I successfully climbed Mount Kinabalu! Well, until 3550m that is. I decided to climb Kinabalu for real about a year ago, when I found my freedom once more. I was no longer obliged to make decisions by consulting another half. I could do what I wanted. Then again, I was never the kind who asked for permission, even my mum. Heh. One thing a broken heart taught me was that you need money to fix it. Loads of it. (Okay I kid. No actually I’m quite serious.) There were so many things I wanted to do while studying in college, but I knew where I came from. I know the kind of person I am. Most importantly, I know the kind of socio-economic background I came from. I could not afford such a lifestyle while studying. So when I got my first job, I knew climbing Kinabalu would be one of the first few things I’d like to achieve. (Yes, climbing a mountain is more important than getting a driver’s license.) I spent a bomb on this trip, but I consider them investments. I bought myself a fleece jacket, a outer windbreaker, hiking shoes and a bladder. I borrowed the walking stick from a friend’s friend and everything else was pretty much stolen  borrowed. I still had my silat pants from Ledang and since it’s super comfortable I don’t see a need for me to get a new pair for the climb. I still need to get myself a Gregory 60L backpack though. (hint hint December trip!)

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So naive. I didn’t know what to expect of the climb!

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Haidar, Shireen and I before we entered Timpohon Gate.

We began the hike on a positive note, but eventually Haidar and I got left behind by the others. I don’t think we were slow… the rest were just too fast hehe. Kinabalu has the same terrain through out the hike – steps, stairs and more steps and stairs. It wasn’t as fun as Ledang, where you need to literally climb a wall of earth, or slide down a muddy path. Kinabalu was challenging because you need a high endurance level and resilience. Doing the same thing for six hours straight can get frustrating. Climbing up steps which seemed never ending was a test to my perseverance – and how strong my quads are.

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Stairway to heaven, anyone?

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Somewhere in the middle of the climb I got bored so I camwhored.

Haidar and I got our guide, Johnny, to carry our bags. Johnny apparently has gone up and down the mountain 300 times in six years! My jaw dropped when we found out. He was very helpful and considerate. He kept reminding me not to push myself too hard, “Masing-masing ada kemampuan sendiri! Pelan-pelan aja..” (Everyone has their own capabilities – take your time!) I did a lot of thinking while climbing up the mountain. Most of the times, I was thinking of how stupid I was back then. Other times, I told myself to let go and move forward. I guess I haven’t really moved on, although I claim and think to have done so. I keep telling myself and my girlfriends that I need to start dating again but I guess the time just isn’t quite right. There’s many other things I discovered about myself too, but I’ll fill you in when the time is right.

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Johnny! The bestest guide anyone could ask for!

Of course, my ego wouldn’t let me give up or go terribly slow. I was determined to reach base camp at 4pm, so we could eat to our heart’s content. And we did! We eventually reached at 4.05pm, after a seven hour hike. Slowly but surely, as how my friend Hannah would say!

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Look at my tired face.

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I thought I was almost in heaven.

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The view from our cabin, Pendant Hut. It’s newer than Laban Rata Hut.

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Happy goober when we reached base camp!

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That’s Haidar, my adventure/marathon/fitness junkie buddy

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Beautiful eh?

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The mountain peak!

We had a scrumptious dinner buffet once we reached Laban Rata. Ate to our hearts’ content, cleaned ourselves up and finally got the rest we needed. I was asleep by 6pm, considering that we needed to start the summit climb at 2.30am in the morning. I was up early, though, at 12.30am. I got hungry (oh what’s new) and it got too cold, so I walked around the hut quietly, trying to keep myself warm and realised they prepared breakfast! It was just toast, eggs and jam, but being 3000m above the ground, that was heaven.

The summit climb was even more difficult than I thought, and the weather wasn’t too nice for us. Winds were so strong I almost got swept away (it’s a big deal for me to be swept away by the wind, okay). There was a slight drizzle as well, so it was very slippery. The terrain up to the summit is steps as well, but way steeper and more difficult than the one before the base camp. Haidar started feeling sick and I didn’t want to leave her, so we both turned back at 3550m. Did I regret it? Nah. The mountain will always be there for me to climb again. Haidar’s already planning to climb at year end!

So when we got back to the hut, we rested, sleep and ate even more before we prepared ourselves for the hike down the mountain. I ate breakfast 3 times that day. I was angry at myself for eating so much but I forgot about the amount of calories I was burning while hiking up. I figured I needed the same amount of energy going down as well. The hike down was easier, but DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) was kicking in so my calves and quads were a little bit sore. Okay I kid, they were VERY sore.

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Attempting a fierce face.

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Haidar decided to be a ninja.

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The newlyweds, Faidzil and Shireen!

We reached our hotel back in Kota Kinabalu at around 6pm, after which we showered and got dressed for dinner. We were famished (oh what’s new)! Had a great dinner of seafood at the nearby seafood place. Basically we chose our ingredients and just tell them how to cook it. No menue at all. I totally forgot to take photos of the food we ate!

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Another certificate to my collection!

The next day, Haidar was really unwell so she didn’t go for the white water rafting. The five of us headed for Padas River Adventure. The commute there was far more interesting that the rafting itself, because I felt that the rapids weren’t so powerful that day. Aaaand we had to share our boat with three other tourists who weren’t exactly up for an adventure. (They didn’t paddle at all I tell you. Noisy but ughh so frustrating!)

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Some of the scenery while on the way to Padas.

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Look how old school the train is!

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Oh you know, camwhoring by the country side..

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WE SAT ON TOP OF THE FREAKING TRAIN!

I’ll let the picture do the talking from here. I looked terrified not because of the rapids, but because my friends had a habit of either hiding behind me when a wave came upon us, or they fell on top of me. I’m a human shield!

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Epic face!

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In my defense, we were about to capsize!

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Okay enough unglam shots of me.

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And our friendship has gone to a whole new level because we bathed in the open together!

I seriously never had so much fun on a holiday before. I only met these guys on the day of our trip, and looking at how we’ve bonded as a team, it’s amazing. Hopefully I can go on more adventurous trips with these guys because I know for a fact my girlfriends won’t be as crazy as I am. hehe

Ibu’s Black Forest Gateau

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Last week, my family and I celebrated my mum’s 59th birthday. Ever since I embarked on a baking journey, my mother has been bugging me to bake her favorite cake – The Black Forest. We used to buy them from neighborhood bakeries, not bothering about the contents of the cake. Learning to cook and bake has made me a more conscious eater – both in terms of what I put in my mouth, and in terms of halal ingredients used. I know some bakers might disagree with me, but I am still reluctant to use vanilla extract, or anything that contains alcohol.

So upon learning that most Black Forest recipes use Kirsch, a kind of brandy, I stayed clear of them. My mother has been deprived of her favorite cake because of this although the durian cake I made last year was quite a hit with the family.

Finally, this year, I mustered the courage to make her favorite cake. I was intimidated because I thought it would be very difficult. Little did I know I just needed a good recipe, and patience to make the cake.

I got the chocolate sponge recipe from Sailu’s Kitchen, and adapted it to make it extra tasty. The whipped cream frosting is my own, and I got the maraschino cherries from Phoon Huat.

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Black Forest Gateau

For the cake:

  • 2 cups cake flour
  • 1 and a half cups caster sugar
  • 3/4 cup Valhorna cocoa powder
  • 1 and a half tspn baking soda
  • 1 tspn baking soda
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 1 cup full cream milk
  • 1/2 cup melted unsalted butter
  • 1 tspn vanilla essence
  • 1 cup hot water
  • 1 and half tbspn instant coffee powder
  • 2 eggs

For layering:

  • 2 cups whipping cream (I used Red Man)
  • 1 tbspn of vanilla essence
  • 2 tbspn caster sugar
  • 1 jar of maraschino cherries
  • Shaved chocolate
Method
  1. Heat oven to 175 deg centigrade. Grease and flour two round 8-inch pans. (I’d recommend lining the base with greaseproof paper)
  2. Mix the coffee and hot water together and set aside.
  3. Beat melted butter, sugar and vanilla essence till well combined and sugar has dissolved. Beat in eggs slowly until well incorporated.
  4. Sift flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and powder and salt. Add into the batter slowly.
  5. Gradually add in the milk and coffee into the batter until well combined. The batter will be very watery, DO NOT WORRY.
  6. Divide the batter into the two tins. Bake in the oven for 35-40 mins, or until skewer comes out clean.
  7. Leave the cake to cool for at least two hours before layering.
  8. Meanwhile, beat whipping cream, sugar and vanilla on a medium speed for about 5-6 minutes. I realised 7-8 minutes may be a bit too long, so do watch out for the cream before it becomes butter.
  9. Chop about 10 cherries into small pieces. When cake has cooled down, cut the cake into layers. You would want to layer the cake, followed by the cream, then cherries.
  10. Finish layering and then frost the cake as desired. Decorate with whole cherries and shaved chocolate. (I used crushed Kit Kat because I forgot to get dark chocolate heh)
  11. Cool in the fridge for about 2 hours before serving.